BEIJING • The organisers of the WTA Finals and tennis fans in Singapore were left holding their collective breaths yesterday after world No. 2 Simona Halep lasted less than a set before retiring with a left-ankle injury at the China Open.
The Romanian's premature exit in Beijing threatens to leave the Oct 23-Nov 1 season-ending blockbuster without its biggest stars.
Halep conceded that she would now take a break from tennis and assess if she can play in Singapore after retiring at 4-5 down in the first set against Lara Arruabarrena.
"My first thought is just to be healthy. Of course, every tournament is important. But the most important thing is to be okay, to feel no pain, and then I will see," said the Romanian. "I hope I can play in Singapore. Was my goal for this year. I will see. I need treatment and I need a break, for sure."
Only Halep, world No. 1 Serena Williams and world No. 3 Maria Sharapova have so far qualified for the elite eight-woman singles field.
But 21-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams has withdrawn from the tournament, while Sharapova is trying to overcome a fresh injury setback that led to her pulling out of the China Open.
Moreover, Petra Kvitova, fourth on the Road to Singapore leader board, also crashed out in the Chinese capital yesterday as the premier tournament lost its top two women's seeds in the first round.
Kvitova lost 5-7, 4-6 to Sara Errani, hampered by a shoulder injury and the lingering effects of glandular fever.
"I'm kind of sleepy all day long. It's just weird," said the two-time Wimbledon champion, who was diagnosed with the energy-sapping disease earlier this year.
"It's just not a great feeling if you are going for a match. So I don't think it was the case to be motivated. I came here really motivated to do well and qualify for Singapore.
"It's (Singapore) still far away, so it's kind of disappointing that way."
Singapore fans will be hopeful of at least witnessing one reigning Grand Slam champion in action.
Soon-to-retire US Open champion Flavia Pennetta battled past China's Han Xinyun 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 yesterday to boost her chances of featuring at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.